By Casey Crow
Special to The PREVIEW
The year 2016 marked the 20th anniversary of the Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program (ACVAP). The local nonprofit serves victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, operates a 24-hour hotline and provides education and prevention programming to the community.
When it was time to celebrate ACVAP’s 20th birthday, the staff began to reevaluate the organization’s branding and goals for the next 20 years. It became clear that ACVAP’s name often associated them with government, despite the organization operating as an independent nonprofit. With this in mind, the search for a new name began.
Director Carmen Hubbs said, “We’ve worked really hard for 20 years for people to know who Victim Assistance is. I feel like we’ve kind of arrived in the last five years and to change it is a risk because in a way it feels like we have to start all over. But I feel like the name that we have chosen really signifies what we’re about. It’s so much more powerful, so much more encompassing of our purpose, and I think that the community can back it up and get excited about it.”
Three focus groups were formed as a means of research, including a men’s group, Hispanic women’s group and a group comprised of female donors and volunteers. All three groups included survivors of violence. The goal was to understand community perceptions of the organization and how a new name could authentically represent it. ACVAP also held a contest, inviting community members to submit names and logos.
For Hubbs, positivity was the key element that she hoped for in the new name: “I personally needed something that was positive … I don’t want the image of this meek victim — not that victim is a negative word in my view, you are a victim when it happens, then you transition to survivor and to thriver — but it needed to be positive and it needed to be engaging.”
Last October, ACVAP was deep in preparation for The Me I Want to Be Project, which showcased works of art inspired by real stories of survivors. The night before the show, the Bear Creek building, which housed ACVAP’s office, burned to the ground. Despite this tragedy, the event went on as planned.
According to Development and Evaluation Coordinator Ashley Wilson, rising above victimization was a prominent theme throughout the art show: “One of the ladies even said, ‘I don’t feel shame anymore, it took away my shame to talk about it, because it wasn’t my fault.’ So she was able to rise to that next level, not only just beyond being a survivor and healing and moving on with her life, but finding that new sense of, ‘I don’t have to be ashamed to talk about this anymore.’”
In the wake of the fire and the powerful art show, a new name emerged — Rise Above Violence.
“As we were voting, we had just come out of the art show and we had just come out of the fire … with all of that in our heads, all the things that happened, the stories we had heard and the people who came forward, I think that really helped propel the narrowing in of the name. It gave us so much more a sense of what we were hoping for when people walk in the door,” Wilson explained.
Goals for the future
Rise Above Violence (Rise) has finally found its new name and along with it a fresh hope for ending violence in the future.
According to Wilson’s statistics, on average in Archuleta County, one person a day is affected by domestic violence or sexual assault. As striking as this is, Rise has set its sights on ending violence completely. In order to do so, it is focusing more on prevention work and shifting cultural norms while continuing direct intervention.
“That’s what we’re trying to change, is the culture around violence. Currently, the culture is silence. We don’t talk about it. That was the goal of the art show and some of the events we’re trying to move toward, is creating awareness so that we can see a cultural shift in how people view violence, in how people talk about violence and how people hold each other accountable,” Wilson said.
For Hubbs, this also means helping offenders rise above their own violence.
“I want to create a positive change, even in offenders. That they no longer want to be this person. We know they are multidimensional people, that they are not just the label of offender, or abuser, or batterer. This is an aspect of them, that they know their community wants them to change and will help them to change if they are willing.”
According to Hubbs, the new name is a call to action for all people — survivors, offenders, men, women, youth, parents and community members alike.
“My heart feels it, feels those words, and I get excited about it. It gives me that positive energy like, ‘Yes, I need to engage, I need to do something. I have a place in ending violence.’ And that’s what my hope is, that every community member, while we’re not asking them to be out there as crisis workers in the middle of the night going out on scene — can you rise above it? Even in your personal life, with how you teach your children to be. Everyone can do this and that’s why the name really resonates with me.”
This week officially marks the launch of Rise Above Violence. Keep an eye out for the organization’s new logo and website. For more information on Rise or for immediate support, call 264-9075.